Audi have pulled the covers off its latest concept, the Audi AI:Trail, the fourth and latest of a quartet of concept vehicles that also includes Audi Aicon, AI:Me, and AI:Race – all of which are presented at the ongoing Frankfurt Motor Show.
The four-seater Audi AI:Trail quattro combines the capacity for electrified, automated driving with superb off-road capabilities.
Marc Lichte, Audi’s Head of Design, describes the concept, “With the AI:Trail, we are showing an off-road concept with an emissions-free electric drive for an innovative driving experience away from paved roads. Consistent with this, we designed a monolithic basic vehicle body with maximum glazing to create an intense connection to the surroundings. A concept for sustainable mobility on demand.”
The AI:Trail measures 4.15 meters in length, 2.15 meters in width and 1.67 meters in height. Given its massive 22-inch wheels and 33.5-inch offroad tyres, the AI:Trail has an impressive ground clearance of 340 mm and a water wading depth of more than 500 mm. For a relative size comparison, the AI:Trail is slightly smaller than an Audi Q3.
The characteristic feature that indicates the vehicle’s kinship with Aicon and AI:Me is the protruding ridge halfway up the side windows. This line continues to both the front and rear and acts as a waistline for the body.
Along the flanks, the side sills beneath the opposing doors act as retractable running boards. This makes it easier to load and unload the roof rack. On rough, rocky terrain, the vehicle’s architecture provides plenty of agility without the lithium-ion battery unit (in the floor) coming into contact with the ground.
The cabin itself is an expansive space surrounded by polygonal shapes, with room for up to four people. Another standout design feature is the windshield, which wraps around the front of the vehicle like the cockpit of a helicopter. Passengers have an unobstructed view of the road or trail both in front and to the sides.
Perhaps the coolest feature of the AI:Trail is its lights, Instead of conventional low beams and high beams, the Audi AI:Trail is equipped with a total of five rotorless, electrically operated drones with integrated matrix LED elements. They are capable of landing on a roof rack or directly on the roof of the vehicle, and docking onto the inductive charging elements. They can fly ahead of the AI:Trail, and illuminate the path ahead, thereby replacing headlights entirely.
If required, the on-board cameras can also generate a video image that can be transmitted to the display in front of the driver via Wi-Fi, turning the Pathfinders into eyes in the sky.
With the electric drive system arranged around the axles and the battery in the floor, there is no need for overhanging sections or separate attachments for the motor or batteries. The Audi AI:Trail is made up of a mixture of high-tech steel, aluminum and carbon fiber. As a result, it weighs just 1,750 kilograms despite the large battery pack.
In terms of drive hardware, the Audi AI:Trail is equipped with four electric motors installed near the wheels, each of which propels one wheel directly: therefore AI:Trail is a true quattro AWD vehicle. The maximum system output is 429 hp and maximum torque is a whopping 1,000 Nm. But Audi placed less emphasis on the AI:Trail’s performance credentials, instead optimising the powertrain for traction and driving range; the claimed range is 400 to 500 km (WLTP cycle) on roads or easy off-road terrain or around 250 km on tougher terrain.
Due to the individually propelled wheels, the vehicle can do without differentials and locks. Electronics coordinate driving stability and traction. If energy-consuming slip can be avoided, it reduces the supply of torque to the affected wheel. Gear ratios have also been optimised to provide sufficient torque without the need for reduction gears.
The suspension system features beefy transverse links and MacPherson suspension struts with coil springs and adaptive dampers for robustness and to ensure safe driving stability. Behind the tyre lies a structure of supporting struts, which are integrated into the treads, and the actual surface. This design allows the tires themselves — in addition to the suspension struts — to contribute a further 60 mm of suspension travel.